Calixtho Lopes

California State Senator Tony Mendoza

Calixtho Lopes is a junior at UC Berkeley stuyding Political Science and Ethnic Studies. After being removed from the Los Angeles Unified School District before his junior year in high-school, Calixtho was enrolled in a county school that didn’t teach anything beyond geometry, and his peers were formerly incarcerated youth. In 2008, he earned his high-school diploma and graduated from the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

Raised in a single-mother home, Calixtho's family’s financial situation was strained, and so following high school he worked for Target for four years. Three of those years were in a management position, allowing him to become the head of his household at the age of 19, after his mother suffered a disabling injury on the job.

Calixtho decided to return to college at the age of 22, after realizing that retail was not what he envisioned himself doing for a living. He enrolled in his first semester at Los Angeles City College in the Spring of 2012, while still at Target working over 45 hours a week. He quickly realized that he was unable to balance school and the demands of his employment. Having very little understanding of how college worked, Calixtho decided to stop showing up to class and failed all five courses he had enrolled in. After much consideration, he reenrolled in the Fall of 2012, and worked part-time. While in community college, Calixtho became involved with the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council in the capacity of Student Representative and a sitting member for both the Youth and Education Committee and the Community Outreach Committee. This experience helped solidify his passion for affecting change within his community.

Now 26, Calixtho is a fourth year majoring in Political Science with a minor in Ethnic Studies. He knew that at UC Berkeley he would seek out opportunities to get involved in the surrounding community – both on campus and at large. Early in his first semester, he attended UC Berkeley’s Public Service Center open house, which resulted in a year-long internship with Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) – an organization that works to address social conditions impacting Alameda County’s homeless, reentry, and mentally ill populations. In the Fall of 2016, Calixtho will be the Student Director for the East Bay Community Builders program. He is a member of the Underground Scholars Initiative (USI), a student-led organization which aims to connect current and formerly incarcerated students with the resources and information that will help to increase their prospects of success in higher education. He is also a co-facilitator and tutor for Teach in Prison (TiP), a student ‘DeCal’ class which sends U.C. Berkeley student tutors to work with inmates at San Quentin State Prison. Additionally, Calixtho is a member of the newly established Homeless Student Union (HSU), a student-led organization advocating for the needs of the underrecognized homeless student population at UC Berkeley.

Although the transition to Cal was a bit challenging, Calixtho is very pleased with where he is now, and eager to share his experience in an attempt to motivate others to relentlessly pursue their interests.


Young Senators at west steps with Senator Mendoza
In today’s public schools, it is easy to see how much importance has been placed in improving student academic achievement. A lesser focus has been placed on civic education and preparing our youth for democratic participation and citizenship. More youth today, than those in earlier generations,...